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Luke 5:37  (King James Version)
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<< Luke 5:36   Luke 5:38 >>


Luke 5:37-38

In those times, "bottles" were made of animal skins—sheep, goat, or ox—and, after being properly prepared, filled with wine or water. These skins came in various sizes—an ox-skin held as much as 60 gallons. Horses and camels could carry glass or ceramic bottles or wooden kegs only with difficulty, but two skins tied together and laid across a beast's back could be carried a long distance. After a time, an animal skin became brittle and ruptured easily. New wine put into an old skin would ferment, expand, and burst them open. New skins, however, were strong enough to stretch without bursting.

Christ's illustration suggests that there is a wise and proper way to do things. It was not fitting to mix His doctrines with the old and corrupt doctrines of the Pharisees. To take God's truth and try to press it into some other form would change it into a lie, making the truth of God useless.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Cloth and Wineskins



Luke 5:36-39

While these examples are valuable in their own right, they do not stand on their own. If we were to begin here, it would be like coming in on the last part of a conversation; without understanding what led up to this, our comprehension will be spotty at best. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all put this parable at the end of a fairly lengthy, yet identical, record of Christ's actions and the Pharisees' objections (Matthew 9:1-17; Mark 2:1-22; Luke 5:17-39). His words here, then, are the summation and capstone of a much longer interaction.

David C. Grabbe
Clothing, Wineskins, and Wine



Luke 5:37-39

This section describes the principle, or law, of inertia. Inertia is the tendency to remain in a fixed position or condition. If matter is in motion, its tendency is to remain in motion. It will move in the direction it is presently traveling unless some external force impels it in another direction. If matter is motionless, its tendency is to remain motionless unless an external force impels it into motion.

Jesus is saying that the same tendency exists regarding the things of God—the acceptance of truth and acting upon it. People have a strong tendency to hold fast to what they feel secure with.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 1)



Luke 5:36-39

The parable is a series of contrasts between new and old. It contains new and old clothing, new and old wineskins, and new and old wine. Christ's being taken away makes the “newness” possible, and once that “newness” is available, it is wholly incompatible with the old.

Jesus begins with an example of old and new garments: “No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old.” In Scripture, going all the way back to the Garden of Eden, garments or clothing are common symbols of righteousness. After Adam and Eve sinned, they tried to cover themselves with something they made with their own hands (Genesis 3:7). Instead, God gave them tunics made of skin (verse 21), requiring the life of an animal, representing the Lamb of God giving His life to cover sin.

Matthew 22:1-13 contains the Parable of the Wedding Garment, whose lesson is that inappropriate clothing will keep a person out of a wedding feast. Isaiah 64:6 says that “all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags.” The Pharisees had a righteousness, but Jesus asserts that our righteousness must exceed theirs (Matthew 5:20), meaning that we need to have His righteousness imputed to us, which becomes our new covering, our new garment. As we become one with Him and submit to taking on His image, we have a righteousness that does not come from our works but from God's work in us.

Thus, we have a contrast between man's righteousness and the righteousness of Christ. But, just as it makes no sense to tear off a piece from a new garment to patch an old one, so is it also a futile exercise to try to keep our own righteousness intact and use a little bit of Christ's righteousness to cover a flaw here and there. The two coverings are incompatible—we have to choose one or the other.

The conclusion is that, if a new garment is available, we would be foolish to use it to mend an old, defective one. Because Jesus was taken away, His righteousness is available to us, so we need to discard any thought that our own is suitable. Instead, we must put on His righteousness and be conformed to it so that it fits and covers us appropriately. Clearly, works are involved and required on our part, but without the covering and involvement of Christ, those works would continue to be as filthy rags.

To understand the new and the old, it is important to realize that the “old” could have many applications. It is not just the Old Covenant. In fact, the Pharisees in Jesus' audience did not actually represent the Old Covenant. The system of beliefs and practices that developed into Judaism is not the same thing as the Old Covenant. Certainly, Judaism makes use of the writings of Moses and the prophets, but it also leans heavily on the traditions of Jewish scholars and is infused with Greek philosophy.

The Pharisees, then, were not actually living by the Old Covenant! God intended that covenant to prepare His people for the coming of the Messiah. Everything in the holiness code, the sacrifices, and so forth was intended to point to Christ. Since the Pharisees could not recognize the Object of the Covenant, what they were practicing was not what the pre-incarnate Christ delivered to Moses. They had gotten far off course.

Therefore, the “old” elements in this parable could be any system of belief aside from what became available through Christ.

David C. Grabbe
Clothing, Wineskins, and Wine



Luke 5:36-39

The new wine represents the truth of God, while the old wine represents the traditions of the culture that we have been born into. These traditions have produced the prejudices that we do not want to get rid of whenever the new wine comes. We are the vessel, and if we do not have the willingness to change, then we will be "burst"—the old wineskin by the new wine. A process of destruction begins to take place unless we too become new.

Jesus understood the principle that was working against Him in His own life. He was coming with the good news that was really new to these people, and what did they do? They hated it so much that they rejected not only the message, but they also rejected and put the Messenger to death.

This lesson is in the Book so that we will understand how powerful the impulse to reject the truth of God is within us. This impulse makes us feel comfortable with the old and unwilling to face up to the new. We rationalize, "Oh, it doesn't matter. It won't affect me," which is, in a sense, gambling with the laws of God. As Paul shows in Romans 1-3, we cannot gamble against the laws of God and win. We will lose every time.

So, why not face up to it? That is Jesus' point. Why not pay the price? Why not accept the truth of God? Why not repent and live?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Truth (Part 2)



Luke 5:37-38

The Bible uses wine in a wide variety of ways. It can represent a drug or a blessing. It can be a symbol of debauchery or of abundance. Wine was part of the drink offering, symbolizing being poured out in service. It was part of Melchizedek's blessing on Abraham, and 2,000 years later, Jesus uses it in the Passover as the blood of the New Covenant. Psalm 75 shows a cup of wine of God's wrath, and Revelation 18 depicts a cup in the hand of Mystery Babylon, representing its intoxicating culture and the spirit of the times.

Obviously, not all of those meanings are in view here, but when we link the new wine with Jesus being "taken away" (verse 35), it coincides with the Passover cup, representing Christ's blood and the New Covenant. When we add the fact that the Holy Spirit could not be given until Jesus had gone away, then the new wine entails more than just forgiveness, but also suggests God's Spirit—His love, power, and sound-mindedness (II Timothy 1:7).

In the example, the new wine is expansive. The fermentation process produces a great deal of pressure. An old and brittle wineskin will not be able to withstand the increasing stress, and it will burst.

The wineskin is a type of vessel. Throughout Scripture, vessels are symbols for people. For Christians, there is an “old man” and a “new man.” The old man represents the life we had before conversion, and the new man, the new vessel, is the life that comes because of conversion. But if we take the expansive and dynamic new wine, and we attempt to put that into the old life, we can be sure that we will have a disaster on our hands.

Our old lives, our old ways, are entirely incompatible with the new wine. The new wine requires change, expansion, and steady improvement, while in the old life, there was no real desire or ability to change. Remember, the new wine is tied to the blood of Passover, the New Covenant, the receipt of God's Spirit, and the spiritual result that will be produced by those powerful factors. Trying to cram all that into a person who is unwilling to change will invariably result in his coming apart at the seams. The precious new wine is spilled on the ground and dreadfully wasted.

David C. Grabbe
Clothing, Wineskins, and Wine



Luke 5:36-39

The context for the Parable of the Cloth and the Wineskins begins in Luke 5:17, when a paralyzed man is brought to Christ. He recognizes the faith involved and tells him that his sins are forgiven (verses 18-20), a statement that the scribes and the Pharisees, of course, consider blasphemous (verse 21). They rightly understand that only God takes away sin, but they would not consider that the Man who was forgiving sin was God. In verses 22-25, Jesus gives proof that He had been given the power to forgive sins: The man had taken up his bed and was walking home.

After this incident, Jesus calls Levi, or Matthew, the tax collector (Luke 5:27), who becomes a disciple and subsequently prepares a feast in honor of Jesus (verses 28-29). In verse 30, the scribes and Pharisees object to His mingling with tax collectors and other sinners, but Jesus responds, “Those who are well don't need a physician, but those who are sick do. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” [New English Translation (NET)].

At this point, many translations insert a subheading about fasting, but the story continues. The Pharisees point out that John the Baptist's disciples made prayer and fasting a regular part of their lives, and they slip in the fact that their disciples did that as well (Luke 5:33). Then they contrast that with Christ's disciples, observing that they have a great penchant for eating and drinking. They imply that His disciples cannot really be serious about a holy life when all they do is have a good time, and in their minds, this reflects poorly on the Teacher. We know this because in Luke 7:34, Jesus quotes the Pharisees as saying that He—the Son of God—is a glutton and winebibber.

Jesus counters that it would be just as inappropriate for His disciples to fast at that time as it would be for the wedding party to fast when the bridegroom is with them (Luke 5:34-35). In other words, Christ's presence should be a cause for joy. Psalm 16:11 (NET) says, “I experience absolute joy in Your presence; You always give Me sheer delight.” Yes, Jesus was also a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief, but there was every reason for His disciples to be cheerful when they were in His presence. They had no need to draw closer to God through fasting because He was with them.

His example is clear enough on its own, except that a well-known Messianic prophecy speaks of Israel's God as her Bridegroom (Isaiah 62:5). He was already on the Pharisees' bad list for telling a man that his sins were forgiven, and now He follows that up by referring to Himself as the Bridegroom!

Luke 5:35 is pivotal when it comes to understanding the parable that follows: “But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them; then they will fast in those days.” We know how that played out. He was “taken away” first through His crucifixion and then later through His ascension. Jesus being “taken away,” however, resulted in a tremendous blessing.

David C. Grabbe
Clothing, Wineskins, and Wine



Luke 5:33-39

The new wine represents the inner aspects of a Christian life, and the new cloth pictures outward conduct and conversation. A person's behavior reflects his commitment, seen in the illustration of attaching new cloth to old clothing. The old clothing—our sinful, selfish life—cannot be mended but must be replaced. The new cloth is a righteous life. The Pharisees' ritual fasting was an old garment for which a new piece of cloth was useless.

It is untenable to attach Christ's doctrine to the old corrupt doctrines of this world's religions. The righteous system Christ came to establish cannot be forced into an old system. To attempt to force His teachings into the ways of Judaism, Protestantism, Catholicism, or any other of this world's religions causes confusion. Christ is warning against syncretism of beliefs; it simply does not work (Matthew 24:4-5, 24; Romans 6:5-6; 16:17-18; Galatians 1:6-10; Ephesians 4:14; 5:6-11; I Timothy 6:3-5; Hebrews 13:9).

Our Savior teaches that life cannot be a mixture of two opposite principles. We cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). We cannot trust in our own works for salvation in Christ, nor follow the world and God. His new way must completely replace our old worldly ways so that we walk in newness of life.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Cloth and Wineskins




Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Luke 5:37:

Luke 5:36-39

 

<< Luke 5:36   Luke 5:38 >>



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